McDonald blasts denied start as Regan 'garbage'

September 13, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

Ben McDonald assumed, after nearly two months of rehabilitating his shoulder, that he would go right back into the Orioles' rotation once he recovered from tendinitis.

He assumed wrong. McDonald was informed by manager Phil Regan on Monday night that he will work out of the bullpen tonight against the Boston Red Sox, in relief of rookie Jimmy Haynes. And McDonald is not happy about it.

"Ever since I've been an Oriole, it's been about respect," McDonald said. "I [told] Phil, I went out there for a month when I shouldn't have been out there pitching, going at about 75 percent, sucking up losses. I went out there and tried to help out this club and help it get back in the pennant race. And this is how I get rewarded, for coming back and getting healthy. [Regan] won't even put me in the rotation. I told him, 'That's garbage, and you know it's garbage.' "

Regan said the reason why he chose Haynes to start over McDonald is experience: McDonald has pitched out of the bullpen, and he wants Haynes as comfortable as possible as he makes his major-league debut. "This is a great chance for a young pitcher to come up and get his feet wet," Regan said. "I think there's a period of adjustment."

McDonald, Regan indicated, may start before the end of the year. "[The rotation] is subject to change," Regan said. "The only thing that isn't going to change is that [Mike] Mussina is going to pitch every fifth day.

"I didn't expect [Ben] would be happy. . . . Actually, if the minor-league season was still going on, then he probably could use another minor-league rehab start."

But this may be a sign the Orioles are preparing for a 1996 season without McDonald. That Haynes will be a member of the club's rotation at some time next year is a virtual certainty. On the other hand, there's a strong possibility McDonald won't return to the Orioles.

First, if service time is restored from the strike with the next labor agreement, McDonald could be eligible for free agency. Secondly, its unlikely that the Orioles will want to pay McDonald anywhere near the $4.5 million salary he won in arbitration in 1995, particularly because baseball's economic market is expected to be depressed this winter.

If the Orioles wanted to keep McDonald, they would have to tender him a contract for a minimum of $3.6 million, unless he were to agree to a pay cut beyond the 20 percent allowed under current rules.

"We're not sure if Ben's going to be back here," said general manager Roland Hemond. "We're anxious to see Haynes, and there's not a whole lot of regular season left. . . . Haynes has been pitching regularly [at Triple-A Rochester], and in Ben's case, he's only pitched twice since July 19."

Regan's rough plan is to throw Haynes five innings, McDonald four. Hemond said: "[McDonald] will still be pitching. What difference does it make if he's the starting pitcher or the second pitcher? I don't see that it's a big deal."

McDonald, who asked his agent, Scott Boras, to get an explanation from Hemond for the decision, doesn't "necessarily believe" the Orioles already have decided his fate for next year. But he said he wishes they would've told him if they were not going to use him in the rotation.

He related his conversation with Regan from Monday night: "I said, 'Phil, I flew all over the country to see doctors. I do hours and hours of therapy to get my shoulder back in shape -- and yet, when it comes down to it, you guys don't want me to pitch.' I said, 'Hell, you could've told me this six weeks ago. I would've shut it down then, if that's what you want to do. You put me through all this, and when it comes down to it, I can't pitch.

" 'I want to understand it. I want to know what's going on. . . . I was under the impression that when I got back I would go into the rotation. I was told dozens and dozens of times I would get back in there. And now I'm not.' "

McDonald said he considered himself a starting pitcher. "I want a chance to get back in there and pitch," he said. "If I get a couple of starts and things aren't right and they want to put me in the bullpen then, I don't have a problem with that. . . . I don't know who to blame. It's Phil's decision, so I guess I blame him. I don't really see where he's coming from. . . . I don't know why he led me to believe I was going to pitch.

"It's confusion. It's just like the Kevin Brown incident, where they pushed him back in the rotation and told you guys first and didn't even tell Kevin Brown what was going on. It's just a communication problem."

McDonald said that Dr. James Andrews, renowned in sports medicine, told him his shoulder may be hurt by the constant warming up and cooling down required by most relievers. However, Regan said that when McDonald works out of the bullpen, it will be an "assigned" time; in this way, McDonald will warm up once before going into a game.

No matter to McDonald, who believes he has been deceived. "I thought the whole thing was to get me back to see if I was healthy, and make a decision for next year," he said. "Now I'm not even going to get a chance to show if I'm healthy.

"It's bizarre. It's a crazy season to be around."

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